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Reno-Tahoe airport to undergo major expansion

Reno-Tahoe International Airport
AP Photo/Martha Irvine

Smoke hangs over Reno-Tahoe International Airport as a plane takes off on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 in Reno, Nev.

If you fly through Reno often, you’ve likely noticed that the Biggest Little City’s airport is getting busier.

Built in the 1980s, Reno-Tahoe International serves 12,000 travelers a day on average, and its age is beginning to show.

There’s not nearly enough parking and the concourses are too small to accommodate today’s planes.

So, the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority is embarking on a major expansion meant to bring its facilities up to date and in line with Northern Nevada’s growth.

Stacey Sunday, the director of corporate communications for the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, said they’re above 2019 numbers of passengers right now.

Parking is filling up every weekend, and “Thursday is the new Friday.”

They heard from passengers about the parking and launched a live tracker.

The full expansion plan will take six to eight years of construction, she said, costing about $1 billion.

“The first thing passengers are going to experience is the ticketing hall expansion,” Sunday said. “So you'll see we're going to get more light, there'll be better wayfinding. There'll be restrooms included in there, that's going to probably break ground this September 2022. And then shortly after that, Loop Road, which is the road that goes right in front of the airport, is going to start seeing some construction as well. There'll be a lot of signage to direct people about getting up to ADA compliance, make it safer, and just make it a better experience all around.”

As for the airport’s history, she said the terminals were built just for the nearby 1960 Winter Olympics. Now, they’re projecting 7.3 million passengers by 2046.

The concourses will be the most expensive part of the renovation, Sunday said, and will probably begin in 2024. If they kept the current ones as is, she said it would cost $200 million to maintain them for 20 years.

Sunday said the airport is fully self-sustaining and the project won’t be using tax dollars. There are also some federal funds they’ll be going after.

Stacey Sunday, director of corporate communications, Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.
Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.